The Farm played host to a nail-biting game yesterday, as visiting Rutgers women held onto a 24-22 victory over a determined Vassar.
“Rutgers were up for this game as they had lost last year to Vassar in the playoffs,” Vassar coach Tony Brown said. “They ran hard pushing the ball wide to good effect, defended the fringes of rucks with numbers, and made some useful kicks to gain territory.”
“Our forward pack worked hard as a cohesive group and provided clean ball to the back line in order to use space that was capitalized on for scoring opportunities,” Rutgers coach Mike Ross said. “Strong tackling was the aspect that shined for Rutgers' defense and that proved to be the deciding factor.”
Rutgers took a 12-5 lead into the half but not until Vassar scrumhalf Margaret Kwateng illuminated the scoreboard for the game’s first try.
Rutgers had the edge in the backs, as evidenced by point scorers: flyhalf Merissa Smith (2 tries), inside center Deanna Cho, wing Michelle Wieczorek, and fullback Lauren Magnusson hit two conversions. The team’s first try evolved after Vassar’s defense doubled up on an eightman pick, allowing Smith to hit the gap and outpace her pursuers for her first of two tries, 7-5 after 20 minutes.
“The next 20 minutes was a back-and-forth affair, and Vassar was guilty of trying to run around Rutgers’ speedy backs,” Brown said. “It was an option that took the ball a long way from their forwards and played right into the visitors’ hands. There was plenty of admirable effort and determined running but too often it led to breakdowns in the attack and no significant gains.”
Right before halftime, Rutgers made good on a sustained period of possession, attacking the weakside of a ruck from 10 meters out and rewarded with a try, 12-5 half.
Rutgers went up 19-5 early in the second half, and it appeared that the visitors had the momentum. But then Vassar changed tactics, kept the ball in tighter for a more forward-oriented game that tried to nullify Rutgers’ speedy back three.
“A rugged forward battle ensued with Vassar forwards dominating the rucks to make darting runs around the base of the breakdowns,” Ross said. In particular, Ross highlighted prop Shanaye Williams as incredibly difficult to tackle, resulting in numerous long runs for the front row.
Vassar began its comeback with an Taylor try that came from a pick off a five-meter scrum (19-10) and was followed by another five-pointer from fullback Addie Provenzano, who sped down the sideline for the 19-15 scoreline.
Rutgers put up the game-sealing points (24-15) afterward, but Vassar made it interesting as hard work from Williams and prop Nichelle Jackson helped set up Kwateng’s second try, which Taylor converted, 24-22.
“Vassar was and will continue to be a well coached group with enormous potential and will serve to be a dangerous competitor in the playoffs,” Ross complimented his opponents. “Rutgers earned a good win,” Brown answered.
It was the third bonus-point win for Rutgers (3-0), which has played its toughest matches of the season already against Marist and Vassar. The team’s in good shape to take the league, although New Paltz next week could give Rutgers a good game. Vassar (1-1) is happy to bank the bonus point in the close loss, and they’ll have some time to work on their game before next big match against Marist on Oct. 16.
Tries: Smith 2, Cho, Wieczorek
Conversions: Magnusson 2
Tries: Kwateng 2, Taylor, Provenzano